Play = Focus, Trust Play!

It's Monday, I am on early shift and decide to change one of our room areas to a baby caring center.  We have two little girls in our room who recently became big sisters to brand new little sisters and I wonder if they would need or want to have access to some baby play.

I put out some baby beds, blankets, diapers, some food bottles and of course, some babies.  I also add in some medical kits wondering if any friends would like to take care of the babies if they get sick.

A co-worker extends that play even more, by adding in band-aids and gloves and some other first aid items.

As educators we can only offer play materials based on our observations and provide and take away items as we see the play evolve. My role, I believe in creating environments it to prompt thinking. We can never tell what anyone is learning at a given time, but we can see if they are thinking. I recently read that idea on Teacher Tom's blog and  I agree with his thoughts. He shares that when  Dr. Denisha Jones spoke on his podcast, she said she doesn't like the word "guide" or "facilitator" to describe the adult role in a play-based environment.  Our job, she says is to  be "present, to observe, to step back.  It's not child-centered, it's child driven". 

In the Early Learning Framework we read that "within a pedagogy of listening (Rinaldi 2001, p. 80) educators create environments in which both adults and children can reflect, investigate, and be provoked to deeper understandings".

So I am thrilled one day, when a little friend is very deep into baby care play.  I feel privileged to observe her focus and attention in caring for and feeding her babies.  I actually enter the play mid-way as it is a co-worker who is observing her initially.  My co-worker tells me the play starts with A placing a baby into the highchair and then wanting to buckle the baby in and needing some support with that. She goes and gets the baby food bottles that I had made available, and feeds her baby.  She then, goes and gets another baby, places it into the other highchair and feeds that one too. She says, "more" and uses the sign for more. I offer her a spoon and bowl, wondering if she needs them in her play. She takes them from me.

She decides to move the babies to the table and that is when I enter the play as an observer.

It seems very important that the babies get buckled into their chairs.  She focuses on getting the buckle right and takes a long time to insert each side.  This is requiring concentration, perseverance and fine motor skills.

She looks like she's ready to feed the first baby but then decides to buckle the second baby.

It takes her a while to get the baby propped up successfully as it keeps flopping forward.  She stays with it though, and finally gets it at the right angle to start the buckling process.

The same patient work goes into fastening the buckle.  At one point she asks me for help and I show her how to turn the buckle over so that it will go in.

The babies are buckled, pushed in to the table and ready for feeding!  This process is similar to how we feed the infants and toddlers at daycare!  I realize that when I set up the baby care station that I was thinking the little ones play narrative might be what they are seeing at home.  She surprises me (I'm surprised daily!) by playing daycare eating time.

One at a time she spoon feeds each one.

After she feeds them both from the bowl, she looks at me and says, "more".  She walks over to the highchair and reaches for the bottles that she had used earlier and brings them to the table.

She wants to take them all at the same time, so she tucks them under her chin and clutches them in both hands to make this possible.

The babies are waiting for more food.

She pours more food into the blue bowl from one bottle. "Shhhht, shhhhht" she says while pouring.

She pours some from each container into the blue bowl and continues to feed her babies.  I'm amazed at her organization and how fluid her play is.  She seems to know exactly what she wants to do.

At one point someone enters our room via the gate beside her.  She pauses in her play to watch what they are doing.  I notice the spoon going into her mouth and I wonder what she is feeling and observing.

She turns back to her play, with the spoon still in her mouth.  I think that she is going to continue because she takes the lid of the bottle and pours food into the bowl, but the play spell is broken for the time being.

Her eyes turn up towards our family tree and she points and asks for her pictures.

Her fingers go into her mouth and she looks at her pictures with me.  We talk about them together and for now her play is seemingly forgotten and she is comforted and interested in  her family pictures.


"Choice in play builds focus and sustained attention."

"Consider this - children are not born with executive function, yet in play, then can sustain their focus for long periods."

"When children choose their play, they are more likely to become highly focused  because it's important".

Wunderled Teaching with Sally Haughey

No comments